Monday, October 10, 2016

Movement - September Goal

Oh exercise, how I struggle with you.  With just a quick look through the blog, it's easy to find multiple posts in which I'm either committing to exercising more or lamenting the fact that I've failed at exercising more (see here, here, here, here, and here for just a few examples).  It's not a habit that comes easily to me.

The problem, for me, is that there are so many things that I would rather being doing than exercising.  Reading, blogging, cuddling with my cats and/or girlfriend, eating out, cooking at home, etc. etc.  There is no shortage of things that I want to do, and it is always difficult to say no to them in order to do something that doesn't really appeal to me.

But I know I need to.  For my stress level, for my health, for my happiness.  Everything is better when I get exercise.  So this month, I set myself the goal of exercising three times a week.  I didn't set any specific requirements for how long or what type of exercise or anything else, I simply had to move.  And I'm happy to report that I was almost perfect.  In the entire month, I only missed one workout, and that was due to the fact that I had such bad sciatic pain that I could barely walk.

In addition to working on the habit, I wanted to observe myself and figure out what helped me/hindered me when it came to exercise.  I want to better understand why I've failed in the past so that hopefully I can do better at making this a lifelong habit.  If nothing else, it will be much more interesting for the blog if I can set a monthly goal for myself that isn't exercising!  Here's what I learned over the past month:

Variety:  I've tried in the past to just run on the treadmill in my building three times per week, and it gets boring very quickly.  (Not to mention the bloody sciatic pain.  My borderline obese body was not designed for running.)  This time I've been trying to do more variety - walking outside, yoga classes, aerobics classes, elliptical - and it's definitely easier to stay motivated.

Planning:  I do much better if I sit down at the beginning of the week and plan out my exercise than if I just try to wing it.  Not surprisingly.  (I didn't promise that these would be profound observations, just observations.)

Changes in Schedule:  I have been aiming for a Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday exercise schedule, which is great when it works, but terrible if I happen to have an extra morning clinic or something else that interferes with my plans.  Going forward, I'm going to have to get better at dealing with the things that throw me off of my schedule.  (Case in point:  I have an 8 am lecture to attend tomorrow, combined with our local LGBTQ film festival in the evening, and I have no idea how to deal with it yet.)

Mood:  My mood has been vastly better over the past month than it has been in perhaps ever.  While I think the counseling and the improvements in my relationship have played a huge part, I certainly don't want to discount the role that exercise is probably playing.

So, for the first time in ever, let's call this month of exercising a success!


As for October (quick comment before rushing off to Thanksgiving dinner #2), my goal is to not look at my net worth.  Not once.  I normally check it on a daily basis and think about it pretty obsessively, so going 31 days without looking at it is a big step for me.  But one that has been good so far, and one that I think is necessary for my happiness.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in Canada!  Hope you enjoy your turkey (or Aloo Gobi, which is how we're celebrating this year). 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Time I Failed At Meditation

A few months ago, when I was struggling with my recent breakup, I had the brilliant idea that meditation would make me feel better.  I searched around a little, found a legitimate-sounding course on Mindfulness-Based Meditation, and paid $500 to sign up.  The orientation session was last night.  It went somewhat like this:

Shit.  I'm late.  These things never start on time though, right?  

(Enter room in which people are sitting in a circle with their eyes closed and their hands in their laps.)


(Noisily take the one remaining chair at the front of the room.  Drop bag on floor, causing multiple people to open their eyes.)

Okay.  I can do this.  Close my eyes.  Ommmmmmm.  Do I smell like McDonald's?  Can the people around me tell that I just ate a Filet-O-Fish?


Is it morally wrong to eat a Filet-O-Fish before a meditation class?


"Good evening class.  My name is <weird New Age name that I would bet money she made up>.  I will be your leader for the next ten weeks."

Ten weeks?  Shit.  

I'm not sure I can do this for ten weeks.

(Notice that the instructor is barefoot.  With her bare feet on the classroom floor.  Try not to be grossed out thinking about the number of feet that have touched the floor and are now contaminating her feet.)

Okay.  I need to pay attention.  What is she saying?

"...homework requiring approximately 45-60 minutes..."

Homework?  I didn't know there was homework.

It's okay.  I can do 45-60 minutes of homework per week.

"...per day..."

WTF?  45-60 minutes PER DAY?  Who has time for that?

Do these people not work?

(Look around.  Notice that many of the people in the class appear to be under the age of 20Suspect that they all live in their parents' basements and do not in fact have to work.)

(Notice really smiley girl across the room who is listening intently to everything the instructor is saying.  And nodding enthusiastically.  And smiling as if she took really good drugs prior to meditation.)

"Everyone taking this class will feel differently about the process.  It's important that you use your inner wisdom to guide you to your best possible outcome."

(Snicker at use of phrase "inner wisdom".  Notice that smiley girl is nodding as if the instructor is sharing truly profound insights into the nature of the universe.  Uncertain if I should be feeling vastly superior or inferior to smiley girl at this moment.)

"...inner wisdom..."

OMG.  I can't listen to this woman talk about "inner wisdom" for ten weeks.  I will kill her.

"...inner wisdom..."


(Look around to see if anyone else is losing their mind like I am.  Notice more people smiling and nodding at the instructor.   Am now convinced that the instructor handed out drugs while I was stuffing my face with fries in my car.)

"And now we will work together to develop our guidelines for supporting each other through the next ten weeks, as we learn more about meditation and about ourselves.  Who wishes to suggest the first guideline?"

No.  OMG no.  Are we five?  This is what I used to do with the kids at the summer program I ran as a teenager.  THE KIDS WHO WERE FIVE.

(The woman next to me speaks)  "I think it's very important that we respect each others' inner spirits.  Because we're all here to make our inner spirits stronger, and if we say hurtful things, it can weaken our inner spirits."

(Officially hate woman next to me.  And do not ever want to hear the word "inner" used in any context ever again.)

(Notice that the name tag of the woman next to me says Beaghan.  Because her parents were clearly crazy.) 

(Smiley girl talks)  "I just want to say that I feel really lucky to be here.  So, so lucky."


"I feel like the universe has presented me with a gift of wonderful people to learn from and to grow with."


Shit.  I hope that noise is just in my head.  Am I making that noise out loud?

Do I smell like french fries?

"Alright class.  This is an excellent list!  I can tell that the next 10 weeks are going to be a joyful experience of learning and growing..."

No they aren't.             

"...and sharing..."

I'm not sharing anything with you crazy people.

"...inner wisdom..."

Stop saying that.

"...inner spirits..."

 Now you're just fucking with me.

"Now, some people decide after the first class that they simply aren't ready to take this journey that we're about to embark on."!  That's me!

"Maybe their lives are too busy, or maybe their inner spirit just isn't in the right place to undertake a spiritual quest at this time."

Or maybe they think you're nuts, you barefoot hippy.

"If you are feeling this way..."


" can receive a full refund on your course fees until 4 PM tomorrow."

And that is how I failed at meditation.       

Sunday, October 2, 2016


When I watch the election coverage coming out of the States, I am left fearing that the world is becoming an increasingly intolerant and hate-filled place.  This morning, however, I had a brief glimmer of hope that maybe things are actually getting better.  One of my friends, an open lesbian who is married to another woman, got ordained as a pastor this morning.  Surrounded by representatives from multiple Christian denominations and multiple churches, she was welcomed not only into life in the church, but into life as one of its leaders.  To the best of my knowledge, she is the first openly gay pastor within her denomination in Canada. 

Her denomination is not one that is commonly associated with progressiveness or open-mindedness, and I know that her journey to this point hasn't been an easy one.  There were people who resisted her advancement at multiple steps, and I suspect that there are people who will leave her congregation because they can't see past their bigotry to how fortunate they are to have her as their pastor.  For the people who remain, even the ones who are hesitant to be led by a lesbian, my hope is that they will see how utterly ordinary her relationship with her wife is.  The genders may be different, but they experience the same love and companionship and struggle of any heterosexual couple.  Different on the surface, but fundamentally the same underneath.

I hope too that Americans will come to their senses and not vote a dickhead for POTUS.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Missing the Blog

I think about this blog frequently.  Post titles pop into my head while I'm showering.  Entire lines of text write themselves in my mind while I'm examining patients.  I am the type of person who is constantly trying to understand life, to fit it to a logical narrative, and this blog feels like an integral part of that process of understanding.  And yet, I don't make enough time for it.  Days or weeks go by without a post until I return, overwhelmed with things I want to write about, only to write a list of bullet points.

I've been working a lot lately on habits - finishing up my work efficiently, getting to the gym, staying connected with friends - and I think that blogging is going to be the next one I try to work one.  I'm finding that if I just leave things to chance that I never seem to get to them, but if I make a regular commitment of time, then I tend to get things done.  So hopefully if I make a plan for blogging I will start logging more than one or two posts per month.

Any suggestions on how frequently I should post?  If you're a blogger, how do you keep up a regular posting schedule?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Revisiting the Budget for the Millionth Time

I started writing a post about the emotional impact of medicine (thank you counseling for digging up all the painful memories and for making me feel all the feels), but it was too much for a late night blog post, so I thought I would write briefly about budgeting (yet again).

I thought I had finally solved my budget dilemma by simply increasing my daily allowance, but when I tried to put it into practice, it just didn't feel right.  I found myself alternating between feeling stressed about essential purchases like cat litter because they would put me over budget and searching for frivolous things to spend money on because there was suddenly room in my budget.  I am constantly looking for balance in my life, and the budgeting system I had used for the past two years was starting to feel very unbalanced.

(Physician On FIRE wrote a good blog post about this phenomenon here.  Definitely worth a read.)

The problem came to a head over the long weekend, when I had a nice chunk of money sitting in my budget, and I decided to spend it on a massage.  Not a utilitarian therapeutic massage, of course, but an over-the-top, self-indulgent spa massage.  Complete with a complimentary robe and slippers, assorted spa snacks, and a post-massage relaxation room to allow me to "slowly re-integrate into the outside world".  It was more than twice as expensive as any massage I'd ever had, and it made for two of the most pleasant and relaxing hours of my entire life.  Pure bliss.

But then it was over.  And after handing over a ridiculous sum of money, I was left with nothing but the memory of Renaldo's hands massaging all of the stress out of my body.  And while that is a lovely memory, it doesn't get me any closer to financial security.  Later in the day of the massage, as I was following the endless rabbit holes of the Internet, I stumbled upon a blogger's Philosophy of Money.  And one section really stood out for me:

"I want to live in such a way that I minimize the number of years that I have to work for money. I’ll have a modest house, car and lifestyle and will never spend more just because I earn more. I’ll invest any surplus so that I can live on my own terms sooner than later."

Yes.  Exactly.  Just because I'm finally earning my doctor's salary doesn't mean that I want to inflate my lifestyle to the typical doctor's lifestyle.  I want to live reasonably and modestly so that I can save any extra money and be in a position to retire early(ish).  I want freedom more than I want complimentary spa snacks.

I will never spend more just because I earn more.

So I'm revisiting the budgeting yet again.  And instead of trying to stick to a defined spending limit, I'm trying to focus on maximizing the value I get from my spending.  Whenever I make a purchase, if it isn't something I clearly need (Cat litter - yes.  Wine - kind of?), then I try to determine whether it's something that is going to enrich my life more than the time off that I could buy with the money.  Going back to the ridiculously expensive massage, I could have lived for two days at my current spending level for the cost of the massage.  If I'd invested the money for ten years, it could have bought me four days of freedom.  When viewed in that way, the decision is easy:  I would always choose two days off of work over a massage.  No matter how perfect Renaldo's hands may be.

Interestingly, this approach to budgeting seems to be working better for me so far.  I recently had to buy cat litter*, and I didn't panic over the fact that it put me over budget.  I'm currently sitting significantly under budget, and I'm not looking for things to spend money on.  I'm just trying to focus on the things that really make my life better, which can very rarely be purchased.

*Why do my cats have to eat the most expensive cat food and poop in the most expensive cat litter?  If I didn't love them so ridiculously much I could be much better off financially.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

So Many Things

You know how something happens and you think "I should blog about this", but then you don't have make the time to do it, and then something else happens that you want to blog about, but you can't because you still have to blog about the first thing, and then it happens over and over again until you have ten things you want to write about and you haven't blogged in almost a month?

Yeah.  That. 

So...because I can't decide which of the major life events I want to leave out of my blog post, and because no one wants to read a brief autobiography disguised as a blog post, here is the last month of my life in bullet points:

  1. I got back together with my (no longer) ex-girlfriend.  After the breakup, I don't think I went more than four or five days without seeing M*, and I definitely didn't go that long without talking to her.  I missed her.  We started out doing the "we're spending all our time together but not dating" thing over a month ago, and we declared ourselves dating again a few weeks ago, and so far it seems to be going well.  We're doing our best not to repeat some of the mistakes we've made in the past, and it definitely makes for a healthier relationship.  We shall see where this goes...
  2. My grandmother died.  My grandmother was 94, slightly senile, and diabetic, and yet I was convinced that she would live forever.  A few weeks ago, I got the call that she had had a heart attack and been made palliative, so I headed out to her small community as prepared as one ever is to say goodbye.  When I arrived at the hospital, she was asleep in her bed, but she quickly roused and demanded to be taken home.  By the time we got her back to the PCH, she was back to her usual feisty self, showing no signs of what had happened.  Unfortunately, a week later she fell and broke her hip (for the third time), and that was the beginning of a very rapid end.  My grandmother was the most resilient of the resilient Depression era farm women, and so it's still amazing to me that she's gone.  I still have moments when I feel guilty for not visiting her, so I don't think it's quite sunk in yet.
  3. I decided what to do with my budget.  The comments on my previous blog post were fascinating to me!  It's interesting how everyone has their own unique way of being financially responsible, many of which are different from my own.  In the end, I realized that my current method of budgeting is actually working pretty well for me, except for the fact that the amount of money I was allowing myself didn't fit with the amount of income I was bringing in.  So, I threw $500 at the budget to get myself out of the black, and I increased the regular amount in my budget by 1/3.  Since the change, I have bought Threadless t-shirts and Happy Socks, taken a thankfully not sick cat for a very expensive vet visit, and booked a luxurious spa day for the long weekend.  So I'm over budget again.  But enjoying spending some of my hard earned money instead of just hoarding it in the event of future catastrophe.
  4. I started counselling.  I wrote before about how I had seen a psychiatrist through a service at work, but what I've never written about was how abysmal the whole experience was.  I went in looking for some coping strategies and maybe some cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety, but what I got was someone who wanted to put me on medication and explore all of the supposedly traumatic events from my childhood (um, no thanks).  It was a terrible match.  I put off looking for someone else until M and I got back together, and then I decided that I needed someone external to help me navigate the waters of rekindling an old relationship.  I've met with the counsellor once, and it seems like a better fit so far, so I'm hoping that something good will come out of it.
  5. I started exercising again.  It has become abundantly obvious to me that everything is better when I exercise.  Not in a future oriented "I won't have a heart attack when I'm 50" kind of way, but in an "I'm less of a psycho hose beast when I exercise" kind of way.  Exercise is definitely good for my stress, my energy level, my sleep, and my all round happiness.  My goal for September, in fact, is to restart the habit of exercising three times a week.  It will likely consist of me running on the treadmill on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, as I have no clinics those mornings, and then doing something else on Saturdays or Sundays.  I may alternatively do an exercise class at work on Thursday afternoons, as there's one that starts after my work day ends.  This week I'm planning to go to yoga on Saturday morning, as my sciatic pain has flared up from the running**, but I may be more creative in the future.
  6. I signed up for a meditation class.  This terrifies me.  I've been reading books about how wonderful meditation is (like 10% Happier and Full Catastrophe Living), and I'm fully convinced that it can make me a happier and more productive person, but I absolutely hate the idea of having to actually do it.  Sitting with nothing but my thoughts?  Breathing exercises?  Walking meditations?  All of that sounds terrible.  And yet, starting October 5 I will be doing it every Wednesday evening.  
And that is my life.  How is everyone else doing?

*I'm giving her an initial, because it's far too tedious to keep typing "the girlfriend" or "the ex-girlfriend" depending on my current relationship status.  Also my hands are sore from typing chart notes.

**When did I turn 80?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The End of Budgeting?

My budget is currently sitting at $294.13 in the red.  A year ago, when I was just starting to work and I was trying to dig myself out of nine years of medical school debt, this would've caused me to panic.  Or more realistically, I never would've gone $294.13 into the red.  I would've eaten rice and beans and said no to get togethers with friends to keep myself from ever going over budget.

Now, I barely notice.  When I hit a positive net worth, my stress level about money dropped, and I have gradually gotten less and less worried about money as my savings have climbed.  Slowly, I've reintroduced things into my life that I've forgone over the past two years:  fancy drinks in restaurants, expensive cheeses, clothing of any sort.  And it feels really nice.

I'm not entirely sure what to do about budgeting at this stage.  Even with being over budget, I'm saving over 2/3 of my earnings, so I am more than meeting my financial goals.  I don't really have to budget anymore; and yet, there is part of me that doesn't want to abandon budgeting altogether.  Part of it is for the reasons I outlined in a long ago post about why I continue to be relatively frugal.  But it's more than that.

I think a huge part of me worries that I'll go back to my terribly consumeristic ways if I stop budgeting.  Before I started budgeting two years ago, I had developed an almost instinctual habit of buying whatever I wanted.  Whether I was shopping for clothes or eating in a nice restaurant or ordering books online, I would simply buy whatever appealed to me in the moment with the knowledge that it was going on my line of credit and I wouldn't have to pay for it until I was an attending*.  I would take whatever boredom or loneliness or exhaustion I was feeling and try to spend it away.  Always unsuccessfully.

Starting to budget made me much more mindful of my spending.  It made me realize that I often wasn't looking for a new thing when I went shopping, but rather for some feeling that I was missing.  A lot of the time, the best thing I could do when I felt like buying something at random was to just go have a nap, as I've been chronically tired since my first day of medical school in 2006.  It also made me focus on non material ways of being happier, rather than on buying a new pair of happy socks.  (Although I really love happy socks.  And am now searching their website thinking about placing an order.  Well done, me.  You've clearly learned your lesson.)

I guess what I'm looking for is some way to be intentional with my spending while not feeling constantly constrained by my budget.  I want to take advantage of the fact that I'm earning ridiculous amounts of money for a single woman with no dependents, without thinking that I can somehow buy happiness.  Balance.  The endless search for balance.

Any ideas?

*Thank you very much, past me.  You are an asshole.


To update you on my habits from a few weeks ago, I've been doing surprisingly well with them.  I have completely resisted the cans of Coke in my fridge, and I've passed on pop multiple times in restaurants.  I am allowing myself to have pop in mixed drinks (something I decided to do in the beginning but didn't mention in my previous post because I was lazy), but in total it's been about one can of pop since I started.  I almost always put my things where they belong when I get home, which has made leaving in the morning much more efficient and peaceful.  I've also started putting my keys/wallet/phone in specific spots in my bag (my bag has about 8 different spots, so searching for something can be frustrating), and that has also been a huge improvement.  Finally, I have planned out my weekly schedule every Sunday night, and it has given me a bit more awareness of the week and a big more structure.  It also saved me from missing dinner with a good friend this week (I thought it was on Thursday, but it's actually on Tuesday), so that is also a win.

Well done, me.